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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

I The Woman With The Diamond

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The ball was a private and very elegant one. There were some notable guests. One gentleman in particular was pointed out to me as an Englishman of great distinction and political importance. I thought him a very interesting man for his years, but odd and a trifle self-centered. Though greatly courted, he seemed strangely restless under the fire of eyes to which he was constantly subjected, and only happy when free to use his own in contemplation of the scene about him. Had I been less absorbed in my own happiness I might have noted sooner than I did that this contemplation was confined to such groups as gathered about the lady with the diamond. But this I failed to observe at the time, and consequently was much surprised to come upon him, at the end of one of the dances, talking With this lady in an animated and courtly manner totally opposed to the apathy, amounting to boredom, with which he had hitherto met all advances.

Yet it was not admiration for her person which he openly displayed. During the whole time he stood there his eyes seldom rose to her face; they lingered mainly-and this was what aroused my curiosity--on the great fan of ostrich plumes which this opulent beauty held against her breast. Was he desirous of seeing the great diamond she thus unconsciously (or was it consciously) shielded from his gaze? It was possible, for, as I continued to note him, he suddenly bent toward her and as quickly raised himself again with a look which was quite inexplicable to me. The lady had shifted her fan a moment and his eyes had fallen on the gem.

The next thing I recall with any definiteness was a tete-a-tete conversation which I held with my lover on a certain yellow divan at the end of one of the halls.

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To the right of this divan rose a curtained recess, highly suggestive of romance, called "the alcove." As this alcove figures prominently in my story, I will pause here to describe it.

It was originally intended to contain a large group of statuary which our host, Mr. Ramsdell, had ordered from Italy to adorn his new house. He is a man of original ideas in regard to such matters, and in this instance had gone so far as to have this end of the house constructed with a special view to an advantageous display of this promised work of art. Fearing the ponderous effect of a pedestal large enough to hold such a considerable group, he had planned to raise it to the level of the eye by having the alcove floor built a few feet higher than the main one. A flight of low, wide steps connected the two, which, following the curve of the wall, added much to the beauty of this portion of the hall.

The group was a failure and was never shipped; but the alcove remained, and, possessing as it did all the advantages of a room in the way of heat and light, had been turned into a miniature retreat of exceptional beauty.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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